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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Tony Kanaan
July 29, 1999


T.E. McHALE: Good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to the CART media teleconference. Thanks for joining us outside our usual time slot of Tuesday at 1 p.m. eastern time. Our guest this afternoon is driver Tony Kanaan of the Forsythe Championship Racing Team who recorded the first victory of his FedEx Championship series career in spectacular fashion at last Sunday's U.S. 500 presented by Toyota at Michigan Speedway. Good afternoon, Tony. Congratulations and thanks for being with us today.

TONY KANAAN: Thanks, T.E..

T.E. McHALE: Tony, driver of the No. 44 McDonald's Championship Racing Team Honda/Reynard took over the lead when Max Papis ran out of fuel just two turns from the checkered flag, then finished a mere 32/1000ths of a second ahead of Juan Montoya to claim his first career victory in his 31st career start. The margin of victory was the second closest in CART history, topped only by Mark Blundell's win over Gil de Ferran by 27/1000ths of a second in Portland in 1997. Tony's victory topped his previous season best finish of fifth at Rio de Janeiro in his homeland of Brazil on May 15th. He also recorded the first pole position of his FedEx Championship Series career this season at Long Beach in April. Tony won the 1998 Jim Trueman Rookie-of-the-Year award following a season in which he finished ninth in the FedEx Championship Series with 92 points. Sunday's victory pushed him to tenth in the championship with 53 points heading into the August 8th Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit on the raceway at Belle Isle. The Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, Round 13 of the FexEx Championship Series, will be televised on a tape-delayed basis by ABC on Sunday, August 8th, beginning at four p.m. eastern time. With that we'll open it up for questions.

Q. This could have pretty easily been your second victory of the year pretty much with how you were running in the early laps. Did it set you back, what happened at Long Beach?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I don't think it took my guys long to get over it. It took me, for sure. I believe, you know, what happened at Long Beach was just a driver's mistake. I think I learned from that mistake and I believe that at the last races, I would like -- I was not going to say bad luck, but a lot of things happen to us, you know, a lot of different things during the race weekend. Sometimes weather, sometimes some fails, mechanical problems. So every weekend was a different one. That put us a little behind every time. You know, the only thing that I can say is we kept working hard and at the end it paid off. You know, the weekend was a very good weekend. I think was a very positive for us.

Q. This is sort of off the subject, but I notice you have an interesting tatoo under your right arm. I was wondering if you could tell us the story behind that.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah. Well, I always love monkeys. I have a monkey in my arm. When I was younger, my dream was to have a monkey - a real one - but I couldn't get it. What I did, I got a tattoo. At least I can carry on the monkey for the rest of my life. Last Sunday, I took a big monkey behind my back, but that wasn't a good monkey (laughter). I just love monkeys, that's why I did the tattoo.

Q. Are you going to purchase a monkey in the near future?

TONY KANAAN: Well, I'm looking for, yes. I told Tamy the other day, you know, I want to buy one when I'm still racing because then I can bring him to the podium with me with my McDonald's hat and he's going to be screaming and yelling at the podium. But I don't know, not now. It's too soon (laughter).

Q. There is a story that you and Max Papis, you were a little unnerved because he touch you on the wheel in some race. Did you talk to him after the race in Michigan?

TONY KANAAN: Honestly, I think Max is probably a little upset with me right now because I didn't. But the way that I approach, what happened in the past was just that - we're very good friends - besides the race, what happened in the racetrack is going to be done in the racetrack, is not going to be carry around outside the racetrack. After Sunday, what I felt, I really want to talk to him, but I want also give him some time to see. I know he's very upset. I been in his situation before. My idea, my feeling was to give him -- leave him alone for a little bit and talk to him after that. I saw him yesterday at Mid-Ohio. We spoke a little bit. I still think that he's a little bit upset, of course. I didn't mention too much about the race. I just tell him, "Too sorry for you. I tell you what, one lap to go was already imagining me and you on the podium, you with your first win. I had a great race going on. We would be partying together. Unfortunately, it was not like that. Your day is coming, you're a true champion, you handle it pretty good, better than everybody. We expecting you to do it because I'm Brazilian, you're Italian, and I believe that we have a high warm blood so will be like even worse than that." We all cry, he did this weekend. But for sure I receive a very good letter from him through my manager on Sunday night. I just had the opportunity to talk to him yesterday. He was congratulating me. He was actually complaining a little bit that I didn't call him. I think we had a chance to talk yesterday, and everything was fine. I just wish that next time can be both of us on the podium.

Q. First of all, what is the name of the monkey on your arm?

TONY KANAAN: There is actually no name. We can make option and maybe people give the name to my monkey. He never had a name.

Q. You said a moment ago it was pretty much settled in your mind that you were going to be standing on the podium with Max, then all of a sudden you see his car coming closer to you and it dawns on you that something is not right. What was going on in your mind at that point?

TONY KANAAN: Obviously, it was very quick so I didn't have time to react. What I did was actually, you know, try to pass him, because I knew Montoya coming. I know if it's not going to be Max, it's going to be me, it's not going to be him again. When I crossed the finish line, I was just out of my mind celebrating, crying, yelling, screaming. I was doing everything. To be honest, when I passed him, I knew I was in the lead, I was leading, but at the same point, two seconds later I said, Hey, the guy is coming behind me. It was like a joy and a moment of worry because it was really hard.

Q. Did you know immediately that you had beat Juan, that it was you that got across the line first?

TONY KANAAN: I knew it, yes. I wasn't watching straight, I was watching right beside my car. I knew it, when we passed through the start/finish line, I was a little bit ahead of him. To be honest, it's something that's coming from inside, as well. I knew that weekend, after everything that happened to me, I think I deserved to win. I did, I knew it.

Q. After the race, you made sure that your mother knew that you didn't crash. What did she say to you when you talked to her?

TONY KANAAN: She said, "Finally, you didn't crash." She was a little bit like, "What is everybody going to think?" "They're going to think the truth, you giving me a lot of pressure. After I crash in Long Beach, after I crash in Cleveland, after my tire blew up on Toronto, I said the truth, so you have to handle right now." She said she got a lot of phone calls and people asking her to stop putting pressure on me. That's good. That's going to calm her down a little bit.

Q. Looking at Detroit, 31-race veteran, FedEx Champ car victory, look ahead to what we'll see in a week or so.

TONY KANAAN: Well, people who know me know I had a lot of success on that track, won in '96, '97, starting from the pole both years in Indy Lights. Last year Detroit race was earlier in the year so was my best qualifying in a road course ever until that point in the championship. I was running top six the whole day and I finished seventh. I really like that track. I had a lot of success. My car works pretty good there. So, who knows? Definitely I'm more pumped up after the win. I think we got a little momentum that's going on, the team and everybody. Who knows? I don't want to predict everything. I'm going to do like I did in Michigan: go to the race, do the best that I can, work really hard, never give up and see what's going to happen.

Q. When you say you never give up, where on that course is it likely you'll put that McDonald's champ car out in front?

TONY KANAAN: Well, the car was running good the whole day. Unfortunately, the wicker fell out of my car. After the pit stop, I was running third. I was really upset when that happened. Actually, at the moment that I was upset, I came in, and that turns on power like, "Okay, Tony, you have to do actual work, but you can do it. You have the car to do it. The boys in the pit are doing everything they can to put you there. We did it once, let's start to do it again. It's a long race to go." We came from a lap down. The boys give me a very good pit stop. We recovered the lap. The last yellow was running 11th. I'm like, "Okay, good. Let's go for it." At that point I was counting the cars. I was 11, 12 cars. It's going to be a tough test, you know. But I know I have the car to be in the Top 5. When I got Top 5, I said, "Hey, I got the car to be Top 3." I went to Top 3. I was running second. Perfect, second is good, a lap to go. Max unfortunately ran out of fuel and I won the race. That proved to me and to everybody else one more time that you cannot give up. Until the checkered flag is up, nobody is the winner.

Q. Everybody has a few things we're superstitious about. This last weekend was the first time had you your own motorhome at the track. Will you keep it?

TONY KANAAN: It cost me a little bit of money. Right now, I probably going to have to keep it for sure. I'm having one for Mid-Ohio. I got a fax today that they probably have one available for Detroit, so I'm thinking about it for Detroit, Mid-Ohio and Chicago, which is the next races to keep it for sure. But probably has to be the same one with the pink liner inside, all the mirrors on the top, Cristiano in front. We going to have to do all over again all the same. I don't know if that's going to work.

Q. Do you think that helped you this weekend? I saw you and Cristiano riding your bikes around.

TONY KANAAN: I mean, that help a lot because we didn't have to wake that earlier to go to the racetrack. You're already at the racetrack. It's much easier actually. Actually was my first time that I did that. I really, really like it. I'm looking forward to do that more often. Cristiano had a good time, too, especially because he stays for free, I paid everything. He was having a pretty good time (laughter).

Q. Obviously when you came to CART from the Indy Lights, the expectations were very high. You had a lot of success with the team you were with. Things started off a little bit slow. Do you feel with the success that you've had this year and now the win that that team is going to be able to start stringing things together?

TONY KANAAN: I don't think the problem was with the time. Like I said, we all -- I mean, I can't explain, I don't know what happened. We're a very good team. I know we had have the capability to win races. Like Steve Horne said before, we're going to win, we didn't know when. It happened this weekend. We had the struggle first part of the season after Long Beach. We completely disappear. We're coming back. We are fighters. Everybody had a good moment and bad moment in racing. I think ours is gone. You know, it's still a lot to come. You never know what's going to happen in the race weekend. But I believe, you know, we going to have a great second part of the season for sure.

Q. I know you sort of have been asked this already, but since you didn't have a chance of leading the race at Michigan, obviously no chance to worry about what the car was going to do or not going to do that last lap.

TONY KANAAN: Definitely. I mean, at the last lap, I was really trying to save as much fuel as I could because I didn't know how much fuel I had left. I had no radio communication. You know, at one point I got behind Max, I said, "The guy is running the same lap times as me, I can catch him." I fight the whole day. Two laps to go, I really want to finish this race, you know. I don't want to try to do something else to win the race and not finish. Second is better than nothing. Of course, first is top. I realized that and I save a little bit more fuel than him and worked out for me. It's one of those days that everything works for you. It's your day. You wake up and God says, "Tony, today is your day." I didn't knew about that, but he probably knew. Everybody work hard and everything works okay at the right time at the right place. It's one of those things. Unfortunately that not happen very often. You don't have one of these days like every day, every race weekend. It would be great if I have. Now I'm waiting for another one.

Q. Did you win any wristwatches this weekend?

TONY KANAAN: No, I lost one. I had a bet with my engineer Martin one of the first races last year when I joined the team. He saw a Breitling, gold and tan watch, really nice, leather band. One of my nicest watches, the one that I liked the most. He said, "Hey, nice watch." I turned around and said, "If I win a race, I'll give you that watch." A year and a half passed. Sunday at the podium he's like, "Hey, where is the watch?" He took it away. But it's okay (laughter).

Q. I'd like to know when you go into a 500-mile race, on a super speedway, it's so different from even the other ovals that you race all year, how do you mentally prepare and physically prepare?

TONY KANAAN: Physically you don't do anything different, just drink a lot of water and try to eat on a regular basis, pasta on the race weekend. It's a long race, but ovals is not as hard as a road course on the body and anything. It's just more in your mind going on. I believe that the one thing that happened me a lot was staying at the racetrack, you know, because I was really relaxed at the end of the day. We had a lot of fun. You keep your mind clear for the race weekend. Sometimes thinking too much about it hurts you a little bit. The race is long, I knew that. I just prepare myself to do it. It's a long race, you have to be patient. That's what I did. I was really patient.

Q. This past week at Mid-Ohio we saw a lot of different drivers in different cars. What do you think the advantage of having another driver sit in someone else's car, especially like in the case of Magnussen and Garcia,Jr.?

TONY KANAAN: Garcia is in another position. He's going to race the next. From Mid-Ohio on, he's going to race the next races. I think that helps a little bit the team. As far as Magnussen, I think if you put another driver to drive my car, he's going to have a different drive style. But for sure he's going to have a different point of view or some things that he do in the car. You know, it's hard to put one driver in your car and say, "The guy was faster than you." You don't know the conditions, you don't know what's happening. Sometimes helps, but sometimes if the driver who is hired to do the whole season is not strong enough in mind, the team put another driver on, the guy does better than him, can really hurt the guy. But I believe that, you know, Robby was trying the Eagle yesterday, I think he's looking for to buy one. That chassis is going to be in the field. It's good for Gurney, it's good for the competition. Rodriguez tried to help Penske to do some tests for Lola chassis, Alex was jumping in the car the next day. I don't know what's happening there, if it's a gong show to choose a driver or if they try to put the setup together. I really don't know. Magnussen was testing the Patrick car. I just saw everybody in a different car. I thought, "That's weird." Honestly, it's not my business so I really don't know.

Q. How much did Steve Horne's taking a more active role in the team, being reunited with your old engineer from the testing, how much did that help you last weekend?

TONY KANAAN: Well, Steve has actually always been there for me. I don't think it was a big problem. He never left.

Q. Right.

TONY KANAAN: The only thing change we made was bringing Diane Holl back. She was in the team all the time. After the first part of the season, Steve felt that was better to bring her back because was more consistent. We were doing worse than we did last year. I think everybody agrees with that we bring her back. The consistency came back.

Q. It may sound like a strange question, about you we all dream of certain things. I'm wondering, does the win feel as good as you dreamed that it would?

TONY KANAAN: Better. In the dream, when you dream about it, you wake up. The win, when you win for real, you never going to forget. You leave that forever. That's a good question, because I was in the podium, you looking around. I'm like, "Is that a dream or that is true?" Is Saturday night, I'm sleeping, is it happening in my dream or really happen? To answer your question, it is better when happens live because of course it's different from when you dream, because when you dream you're planning things, I'm going to do this when I win, I'm going to do that. When you win, you kind of forget ten of those things, and just do one or two. Everything else came natural. It work both ways. When you dream about the win, you think you're still dreaming. When you lose, you still think you're dreaming, too. I don't express myself very good, but sometimes for Long Beach, I wish that could be a dream so I could wake up the next day and do it again. Michigan, after I win, I thought it was a dream, and I wanted it to be real. You understand what I'm saying?

Q. I do. Keep dreaming.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks for being with us, Tony. Best of luck on Sunday at the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit and through the rest of the FedEx Championship Series.

TONY KANAAN: Thanks, T.E. see you guys.

T.E. McHALE: Thanks for being with us today. We'll talk to you next week.



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